FAYETTEVILLE (NWAOnline.com) - The faces might be fresh, but as was evidenced Saturday, the knack for theatrics hasn't changed much for Arkansas' baseball team this season.
For the second consecutive day the No. 24 Razorbacks got a needed late-inning rally, scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh before holding on for a 5-4 win over Utah at Baum Stadium.
"We were behind last night and we came back and learned how to do that," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "So when we were down 3-0 we knew we still had plenty of at-bats. I'm glad we punched in a couple of runs to keep it close until we put together a big inning."
The Razorbacks trailed the Utes 4-2 heading into bottom of the seventh, but put five base-runners on before recording an out in the half-inning. Collin Kuhn's RBI double pulled the Razorbacks within one before Matt Reynolds' RBI single tied the game with nobody out and the bases loaded.
Kuhn scored the go-ahead run from third when Kyle Robinson hit into a double-play on the right side of the infield.
Randall Fant worked around a pair of base-runners in the eighth inning before sophomore DJ Baxendale closed out his second game in as many days. After earning the win in relief Friday, Baxendale earned his first save of the year by retiring all three batters he faced in the ninth.
Utah second baseman Michael Beltran struck out to end the game, leaving Utes all-American first baseman C.J. Cron standing in the on-deck circle. Cron hit a pair of home runs Saturday, including a solo home run off Barrett Astin into deep left center field to give Utah a 4-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning.
It was about the only blemish on Astin's day. The freshman from Forrest City earned his first career win by pitching 3 2/3 innings in relief of Arkansas starter Geoffrey Davenport, who left with one out in the fourth.
"He did a good job," Van Horn said. "He gave up a home run to one of the best hitters in the country, and that happens. Other than that he got himself out of some jams, got some ground balls. I thought he had a lot of movement on his fastball and he throws a cutter, and threw some good sliders.
"That was a good experience and he'll do better next time."
Arkansas responded in the bottom half of the sixth. Reynolds slid underneath the tag of Utes catcher Jo Jo Sherrar on a James McCann RBI single to pull the Razorbacks within 4-2.
Astin worked around runners on the corners in the top of the seventh to set the stage for the Razorbacks rally.
"I got one inning last week in just to break through, and three or four this weekend, and that makes me feel pretty good about myself," Astin said. "It helps build my confidence up a little bit.
"I felt like I threw pretty good, I felt like I made one mistake and they capitalized on it, but that's how it goes."
Utah took a 1-0 lead in the second on a Sherrar RBI single and extended the lead to 3-0 on Cron's first home run in the top of the third. Arkansas looked to have ended the inning moments earlier on a rundown, but Beltran slid underneath the tag of Arkansas shortstop Tim Carver.
Down three, the Razorbacks huddled in their dugout for several seconds in the middle of the third.
"We just knew we had to do something different at the plate," said Kuhn, who finished the game 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and a walk. "We just weren't really getting our offense going and we decided to make some changes, and I think it worked out for us."
The Razorbacks got on the board in the bottom half of the inning on Kuhn's RBI single to pull within 3-1, but stranded two runners. Arkansas stranded eight runners for the afternoon.
Utah (0-4) looked to add to that lead in the top of the fourth, but Cody Guymon was thrown out at home plate by Razorbacks center fielder Jacob Morris. Guymon hesitated rounding third and the freshman's throw was right on-line to Arkansas catcher James McCann, who applied the tag.
"That was a great play," Van Horn said. "He bobbled the ball then threw it in to the catcher; a perfect throw.
"We never gave up the big inning – the 3-4-5 run inning – and that's what kept us in the game."
Utah starter Zach Adams earned a no-decision after pitching five innings, allowing one run on three hits. The power right-hander struck out eight Arkansas batters.
"Their pitcher was outstanding," Van Horn said. "He had what I call a plus-fastball, kind of jumping out of his hand; it was in the 90s. He mixed it up pretty good. That slider was nice and he kept us off guard, and he got some strikeouts. He gave them a chance to win.
"We didn't play very well. We made some costly errors and some mistakes, but we still battled and overcame, and did just enough to win."
Arkansas will go for the three-game sweep Sunday with a first pitch scheduled for 12:35 p.m.